Where has the time gone? If this is your question of the day, you are not alone. Wasn’t it last week we met at the church and talked about “shutting down” and worship going virtual?
As of this week, there are new restrictions in place, and all church gatherings, even outside, socially distanced, and with a mask, are prohibited again. Each day we are setting records for new infections and deaths. While some believe that the coronavirus is “fake,” more than 254,000 deaths in the U.S. and 1.34 million worldwide is not.
As a church, we decided not to panic during the pandemic. While we were going to observe all safety guidelines and not worship in person, we decided not to “shut down” and wait for a return to “normal.” Instead, we decided to focus on being the agents of hope in our community; we took the opportunity to grow our community ministry and serve the people as they faced the hardship caused by the economic slowdown. We hired staff, invested in refrigerators and freezers, and upgraded our electrical capacity.
We witnessed not only the devastation of the economic downturn, disruption to education but also the loss of loved ones to the virus. April has lost family members in Texas, and most recently, Aurea was hospitalized with Covid-19. We are thankful she is now recovering at home, mainly by sleeping a lot.
Our response to the pandemic was highlighted in a Presbyterian Outlook story about innovative ways Southern California churches are working together to fight hunger. The link to the article can be found on our church website under the Ministry/Food Pantry. Our ministry is not about the number of people we serve or how much food we give away, but about each person who comes to our site feeling the love of God from us. I am profoundly grateful for the attitude of grace demonstrated each day by all volunteers and staff at our food bank.
As a pastor, I am truly grateful this Thanksgiving season for all of you. Your dedication to serving people is not equaled elsewhere. I want to share with you two recent developments in our partnerships. We have been collaborating with several other Presbyterian churches with food ministries during the pandemic, and this past week, after months of fundraising and writing for grants, we purchased a truck. Through various sources, we raised more than $200,000 in six months. This means we no longer have to rent a truck to pick up food each week. The second bit of news is that last weekend, we had partnered with Girl Scout Troops from Palos Verdes Peninsula and Marina Del Rey and gave out almost 1,000 chicken pot pies to the community. The real amazing part of the story is that last week our staff and volunteers for the food bank worked six days straight, and they did it with smiles on their faces. Thank you.
I am thankful for each and all of you, and as a pastor, I cannot be prouder of the congregation I was called to serve. To journey with you during this unprecedented time is a privilege. With the spirit of service, let us love the people in our lives and around us with the same love God has loved us with. Let us love one another deeply so that the love will overflow from us. As God has welcomed us, let us welcome everyone God brings into our lives, turning “strangers” into “family.”